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Breakthrough penis transplant gives glimpse of future in organ transplantation

Health

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)–The evolution of organ transplantation is quickly advancing–most notably in life-enhancing transplants.

In recent years, complicated procedures have included a full face, a uterus, and now, the first penis transplant in the U.S. at Massachusetts General in Boston. Doctors say the 64-year-old patient is doing well.

“We are cautiously optimistic. It’s still early days. It’s still early in his course and we’ve learned a lot already. But we are hopeful that with this kind of experimental surgery that we can learn enough to make it safe and routine,” says Dr. Curtis Cetrulo.

The Chief of the Transplantation Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Dr. David Mulligan, says improved anti-rejection drugs and fine-tuned surgical skills are behind these type of transplants.

“We can sew ends of blood vessels together under a microscope using very, very fine threads and needle in order to make this work,” he said.

At Yale-New Haven Hospital, kidney transplants are the norm, but they expect more to come.

“I think we have a few other organs to transplant that we haven’t transplanted yet,” Mulligan said. “The one we are working on here at Yale is the uterus transplant.”

The most exciting level of breakthroughs he predicts could come within the decade, with the use of a 3-D bio-printer. Yale School of Medicine has one.

It could lead to duplicating or growing a new organ out of the body’s own cells.

He explains, “So that then we can take that new organ without hours of starting the cellular generation process, and then use that to transplant into a person who won’t even need immuno-suppression because it’s their own cells.”

Already, researchers are making significant advances.

Dr. Mulligan says, “Right now, within about eight to nine minutes, we can print fully branched vessels with all the layers they need to have in order to be functional.”

Despite all this, Dr. Mulligan stresses the critical need of organ donation – with thousands of people on the list — waiting for the gift of life.

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